I've been wanting to try this - curiosity and opportunity really - beetroot is about the only thing that's survived in my rather feeble-looking vegetable patch. I've been holding off though, because I knew there'd be no other takers for purple pie. So I waited for my mum's visit this week, and while I was waiting, just happened to catch Hugh F-W making the very same thing on a repeat of his series, River Cottage Veg. It had to be a sign. A good one I hoped. And feeling more confident I went to pull up some beetroot.
This recipe has a few touches from Hugh FW's, which is here, but it's based on a well tried and tested tomato tarte tatin one - always popular, with the added bonus of looking a lot harder to make than it actually is...
puff pastry (I used ready-made)
handful of thyme
teaspoon of ground cumin seeds
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1 egg beaten
Clean the beetroot - mine were quite titchy, and I left the root and about an inch of the stalk on to limit the spread of purple, but if they're big, best to cut them up so they cook through. Drizzle with olive oil, add some sprigs of thyme, season and roast at 190 degrees C (gas mark 5) for 35-40 minutes. When cool carefully slice up, and sprinkle over the vinegar.
Roll out the pastry so it's big enough to cover the base of a 20cm or so ovenproof frying pan, with a bit to spare. Once that's done, melt the butter over a low heat and add the sugar evenly around the pan. I don't stir at this point, but keep an eye on it, until the butter and sugar just start to caramelise and turn golden. Then remove from the heat and quickly arrange the slices of beetroot in a spiral, overlapping as you go. I start from the middle and work out.
Put it back on for 5 minutes while you sprinkle over salt, pepper, a teaspoon of chopped thyme leaves and a level one of ground cumin seeds. Carefully lift the pastry and place it on top of the beetroot, tucking it in around the edges. Prick with a fork and brush over the beaten egg (you can leave the egg bit out) and bake in the oven for 30 mins, or until the pastry is golden.
The tarte tatin looked so impressive when I turned it out onto a plate; so much more impressive than any of my photos. Is it just me, or is it incredibly hard to take a decent picture of cooked beetroot?
Anyway, it tasted great - sweet, with a hint of cumin and thyme, and we had no problem polishing the whole thing off. Just the two of us. And not a pick of purple left.